Traveler: Danielle Gervalis
When: December 2017
If you are looking for a place that can provide great food, beaches and city life then San Diego checks all those boxes. An impressively clean and sprawling city, there is a lot of ground to cover to get to all of the cool things to see, do and eat. I hope our experiences exploring helps narrow down your own list!
I stayed in an Air BnB in the East Village neighborhood. This area has its own charm and is Gas Lamp adjacent. It’s about two blocks from Petco Park, so if you are planning to see a baseball game, this is definitely an area you will want to be in! It cost about $15 to get an Uber from the airport to here.
Things to Do:
La Jolla Cove and Tide Pools
This area is an absolute delight! About a $20 cab ride from downtown, the cliffs, beach and ocean make for a dramatic back drop as you explore. Best of all, there are tons of sea lions and seals playing in the water and napping on the rocks!
I was in love. If I could adopt them and take them all home, I would, but they seem pretty happy in their Pacific digs. You’ll find them in multiple areas sunbathing, barking or sleeping in adorable little piles. While they seem to be used to people, you should exercise caution and give them space. Also, while wandering around the adorable sea creatures, be careful of the puddles…. it’s not ocean water.
This beautiful tourist area along the bay is full of shops and restaurants containing everything from surfer gear to Christmas decor! Traversing a small distance north you’ll find the massive navy ships parked in the harbor.
Additionally, there is a Bob Hope memorial and the famous “Embracing Peace” statue of a sailor making out with a surprised nurse commemorating the end of WWII.
If you enter Balbao Park from Park Blvd it seems as though you are surrounded by a sea of parking lots, however once you get past that, whether by tram or on foot, you will be confronted with stunning gardens and architecture.
The park dates back to 1835 when over 1,400 acres were set aside for public recreational purposes. However, the present day feel of Balbao Park is primarily a result of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal and the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition which was held to boost the local economy during the depression.
Be sure to check out the Visitor Center to grab a map and chat with the volunteers. The gardens (except the Japanese Garden), Botanical Garden and Tinkman Museum are all free. The remaining museums charge a fee to enter.
A lively and historic area of city filled with restaurants, bars and shops. In decades past, these 16 blocks were known as the red light district due to all of the gambling, saloons, and bordellos. Wyatt Earp, of O.K. Corral gunfight fame, owned four saloons in the area in late 1800s. Today, it’s a much tamer, eclectic area to grab a bite to eat or walk around admiring the history and architecture.
WhiskNLadle Bistro and Bar
Located in La Jolla on Wall St, they have a happy hour with a nice food and craft cocktail selection. I had the Fire Stone with Mezcal and the Apple Salad for under $20.
Located in Hillcrest, this place has a cult like following in the neighborhood. The decor is more on the divey side but the food and service are absolutely top-notch! The bartenders were very entertaining and provided lots of great recommendations for things to do in the city. They have a large variety of creative rolls to choose from which lean on the spicy side. I had the phenomenal Scallop Baked Roll with spicy mayo. They also have an extensive sake menu with happy hour two for one deals.
Talk about a colorful explosion! This charming locale is a 15 minute walk from the Zoo/Bilbao Park area. The menu is full of Mexican specialities and tasty margaritas. I had the Poblano Rellenos with queso fresco and pork and they were to die for! The sauce had just the right amount of heat and flavor. The clientele are mostly local neighborhood folks so this gem is definitely worth going off the beaten path for!
A dimly lit restaurant and bar with incredible animal themed artwork, this place has a cool cocktail menu and very tasty. I sampled a few of the bar’s specialties and the Chicken Fried Quail with mashed potatoes. I’m still dreaming about that meal. Everything was done to perfection. Additionally, it’s located near Seaport Village/Convention Center so it’s easy to get to if you are staying near those areas.
This huge industrial space hosts a pretty special brewery with a pirate theme! Mission Brewery was originally established in 1913 but went out of business during prohibition. It was brought back to life in 2007 and has continued to expand and win awards since that time. The tasting room is right in the middle of the brewing action and they host tours on the weekends. If you stop by, try the Coconut brown.
Also on Wall St in La Jolla, this offshoot of the main brewery in Pacific Beach serves a full menu of bar food, with four different types of macaroni and cheese! The beers are also creative and delicious. You can do a full flight of four beers for $7. I highly recommend the Peanut Butter Cup Porter, it’s light and delicious!
A large, hip coffee shop with communal and small tables to eat, drink and work. The breakfast burritos are huge. If you are looking for an artisan latte, this is your spot!
Like the name implies, this tiny locale features local artists and coffee. Bordering the Gaslamp District, it’s a friendly local café featuring lattes and breakfast items for folks on the go.
There are lots of great Italian restaurants on this strip. It would be impossible to eat at all of them, so I suggest trying small plates at a few different places! Enjoy your whirlwind tour of San Diego’s Little Italy!
Craft and Commerce
If you like exotic taxidermy, then you will love the decor of this restaurant. Located one block down from the main drag, it’s worth a stop in for a delicious craft cocktail and appetizer. I tried their baked oysters and was thrilled. The sauce and flavor of these little guys were phenomenal.
I had the best cannoli of my life at Sorrento. This place has beautiful murals of Italy on the wall, a great wine list and many Italian favorites to eat! It was a sweet ending to my time in San Diego.